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What are some words or phrases that can be used when a person is discussing a particular subject with a group of people and unintentionally she/he talks about something unrelated? I need a formal expression.

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Here are a few ways of expressing that, from casual to more formal:

  • Going off-topic
  • Getting off track
  • Rambling or not getting to the point
  • Losing focus
  • Digressing
  • Tangential to the discussion
  • Not relevant to the topic at hand
  • Diverting the conversation
  • Subject is not pertinent to the conversation
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    These are exactly what I have been looking for!! Thanks!! – user19341 Mar 26 '12 at 18:45
  • Great! I'm happy I was able to help! – Ellie Kesselman Mar 26 '12 at 18:49
  • One might also say "on a side note..." or related to "tangential to the discussion" but less formal "(going) off on a tangent" – TecBrat Aug 23 '12 at 16:47
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I'm fond of going off-topic. You could also say that they are going off on a tangent or speaking tangentially.

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    "Fond of going off-topic." - good you don't ask many questions here then :P – Daniel Mar 26 '12 at 18:45
  • Speaking of good burger joints... – Jim Mar 26 '12 at 19:54
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    I saw a turtle! – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Mar 26 '12 at 20:04
  • @cornbreadninja Oooo shiny! But that isn't formal ;o) I liked the turtle. – Ellie Kesselman Aug 27 '12 at 5:59
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The short answer is: "digress". It means to go off-topic.

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The expression you need is "That's beside the point". Alternatively you can also say "That's irrelevant."

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Funny no one has mentioned this yet. I thought I might as well include this. It's "sidetrack" :

To divert from a main issue or course: